In fact, all this week Lo has been profiled by KevinNottingham with a ton of great content, including an interview with Binary Star about Masters of the Universe, audio commentary by Lo on his favorite tracks, Lo’s announcement of his new group The Autocons, and much more. Christmas seriously came early. Check it out, and as always, stay tuned to The (new) Beest.
I knew nothing of One Be Lo’s latest record, Labor, until the day before it was set to release. Spotted a tweet, of all things, mentioning that the record was scheduled to drop the next day. Talk about being blindsided. The moment midnight, September 6th hit I was F5-ing his Bandcamp like a madman, waiting for the record to drop.
Now, I’ve covered Lo at least three times before on the ‘Beest. Two tracks from his incredible 2005 record S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. and a joint with fellow Michigan emcee Senim Silla as part of the duo Binary Star, from their classic record Masters of the Universe. Lo is seriously one of my most favorite emcees of all time. and I mean that in a Kanye-esque “all time.” What makes Lo awesome to me is that he’s an intelligent emcee with a lot to say and a lot of wisdom, yes, wisdom, to impart to listeners. As well, he’s a fantastic rhymer with his intricate wordplay and a knack to create rhymes which will have you repeating two or three times to fully get it. I fell quite hard for S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., a terrific record on all counts, and began the long, long wait for new content (I wasn’t crazy about ‘07’s The Rebirth).
And now that I have Labor in my…er, well, on my hard drive and MP3 player, and been listening and re-listening for nearly a week now, I am floored. The record is an excellent follow up. Lo hasn’t been resting on his laurels these past four years as Labor stacks up well to his previous work. Lyrically, he still can craft some very complex lines and his content still concerns life, spirituality, and many social and personal issues, which he handles with candor and a certain sense of wariness, like he’s already lived through every minute of it. Musically, he’s made a large jump from the understated beats of S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., as the production here is bigger, bolder, and more lively than before. Lo’s back indeed, and he is kicking ass.
Now, to pick a specific song? That was tough, but “Ox y Moron” appealed to me from the first play. Following the album’s concept of tracks based around animals of the Zodiac, “Ox” speaks about money, often a contemptuous element in Lo’s songs, but here Lo speaks about money’s effect on people, especially people who had nothing before. It’s a wild listen, as Lo paints hilarious examples of money’s effect. The beat is defiant, made even better by the guest vocals and the wonderful Eddie Murphy samples. Welcome back, Lo.
Perfection in less than two minutes, this song neatly covers the reason why I’m such a big fan of One Be Lo.
A former knucklehead, Michigan emcee One Be Lo (or One Man Army) decided to change his life after a stint in prison, so he picked up a mic…and you should be damn happy he did. Along with his good buddy, Senim Silla, they formed a duo known as Binary Star and released a fantastic all-rap, no bull record with Masters of the Universe. In 2005, he released his grand opus S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., one of my all-time favorite records, jammed full of intelligent tracks with solid production and some outright brilliant rhymes. It’s a record I keep coming back to, because Lo is a dude who has passion for what he does and a strong desire to teach and inspire change.
“Oggie” is an incredible example, as Lo speaks about a friend lost to violence. Over a slick bassoon loop, Lo spits a single, poignant verse, and in that short ninety seconds you are witness to anger, remorse, confusion, and sadness, but as well, knowledge of self, empowerment, and perseverance. This is a masterful track, and those final lines never fail to captivate:
Once dumb now I got a lot to say Once blind now I focus on the world today Don’t think you got +wisdom+, life’ll pull your teeth I got peeps in the dirt from some bullshit beef Walkin’ a straight path these last days is even steeper Action inflated, talk is even cheaper You dig it? We livin’ in holes that’s gettin’ deeper The more niggaz grin the more the Grim Reaper…
The last day of 2010. It’s been a hell of a year, huh? I know I enjoyed it, and I don’t want to jinx anything here, but I have a feeling that 2011 is gonna be even better.
One Be Lo, one half of the duo that is Binary Star, is a rapper I truly revere. His 2005 effort, S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. made me a believer. Of course, it’s all thanks to Lo, a dude who is incredibly thoughtful, touching on issues such as racial and class inequalities, the senselessness of violence, the prostitution of rappers by record labels, and much more. Lo has a knack for inspiring and clever lines, and listening to him on the record you know you’re in good hands. The production too is top-notch. It’s jazzy, understated, and soulful, and the sounds compliment his rhymes perfectly. At 22 tracks, S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is a bit on the longer side, but there simply is not a skippable track on the record. It’s a terrific album.
It’s become almost a tradition for me to listen to this track on New Year’s Eve. A endearing listen, Lo reflects on his past as a teen astray and his present as an enlightened man…and though the future is uncertain, he remains positive about what it holds.
A binary star is actually not one star, but two, which revolve around each other so closely that to observers they are like one.
Funny, this song taught me more about that than an entire semester of college astronomy.
Binary Star is the duo of One Be Lo, A.K.A OneManArmy, and Senim Silla, two emcees hailing from Pontiac, Michigan, and the title couldn’t be more fitting. The duo united under the goal of making real rap, focused on skill, substance, and avoiding the vapid, senseless excesses which pervaded current hip-hop music culture: Guns, money, and the endless, talking-loud-saying-jack-shit mentality. The duo originally met in a Michigan correctional facility, and realized that they both could rhyme and carried the same feelings about hip-hop. After their release, they quickly got to work, and with a paltry 500 bucks, recorded their debut.
Waterworld hit in 1999, and became an underground sensation in the Michigan rap scene. It caused enough buzz for the group to re-release it the next year as Masters of the Universe.
With the 2001-esque album cover, complete with a monolithic microphone, Senim and Lo indicated that Masters of the Universe was the arrival of something monumental.
And trust me, listening to this record is like that intro scene in 2001 where the apes discover tools: Afterwards, nothing is the same.
Masters of the Universe is a fantastic listen. Thoughtful, passionate, and very well spoken, Lo and Senim are deep thinkers, concerned with the state of hip-hop and current black culture. Every word rapped and every beat utilized is carefully chosen and nothing on the record is careless or an afterthought. As well, the two have perfect chemistry, coming together like He-Man and Battlecat to deliver decisive rhymes.
“Conquistadors” is one of several songs on Masters which I’m really enjoying. Those horns, man! Those freaking horn flourishes are simply unstoppable, giving you the feeling that the two have arrived to conquer the whole damn planet. It’s a complete knockout track.
While Senim and Lo have gone their separate ways since Masters, they are just as strong apart as they are together. Remember, two stars. One Be Lo in particular is rap’s premiere unsung emcee, his album S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is a masterful record, one I can’t get enough of (and I’ll be speaking about it real soon, trust me).
Like the sample at the beginning of the track declares: ”It’s a new day, motherfuckers.”
"Once dumb, now I got a lot to say
Once blind, now I focus on the world today
Don’t think you got wisdom? Life’ll pull your teeth
I got peeps in the dirt from some bullshit beef
Walkin’ a straight path these last days is even steeper
Action inflated, talk is even cheaper
You dig it? We livin’ in holes that’s gettin’ deeper
The more niggas grin the more the Grim Reaper."
— One Be Lo, “Oggie” (from S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., 2005).